I really missed out on my opportunity to pick up a second language when I was in high school. I took one year of Spanish my freshman year and didn't enjoy it so much. I followed that with two years of Latin since I needed two years of the same foreign language to graduate. Don't ask me why I took Latin, because I don't have a reasonable answer. When I was in high school ('83-'86) there weren't many immigrants in this area. The Hispanic and Asian population in my high school graduating class was probably less than 20. That's not many out of almost 300 people. Now, in my community, the Hispanic population is very large. There are a lot of Spanish speakers around here. Some of them speak English and some don't.
Since I'm back in school with the intention of entering the medical field, I belive that being conversational in Spanish would be a great benefit. I'm in my second semester of Spanish at school, but I'm just not happy with it. My instructor is phenomenal. He's actually one of the best instructors I have ever had. He's fun, entertaining, and makes the class very enjoyable. The problem I'm having is that the pace of the class is just too slow. We covered more material in my single year of high school spanish than I expect we'll cover in two or more years in this community college program. I just don't think I'm going to learn enough to keep me interested in the class. I don't intend to take the next level of Spanish at school.
I ordered level 1 and 2 of The Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin American Version) and it arrived here today. Before buying this, I read a lot of reviews and played around with their demo software. I couldn't find any significant negative feedback from people who have used this software. I also think I'm motivated enough to succeed with this program on my own.
I installed the software this afternoon and went throught the first lesson. I was quite impressed with the format of the program. It's easy to install and nagivate. The software actually teaches you the language concepts the same way you learned your own native language. It speaks to you and shows you pictures. You simply click on the image that corresponds to what is spoken. This varies throughout the exercises as well. Sometimes you are shown a photo and then click on the corresponding text. You get lessons where you type the text that is spoken. You also get the opportunity to speak back to the system and your voice is analyzed and compared to the native speaker for clarity.
I spent approximately 2 hours on the first lesson, but I was very thorough with it. I completed each segment of the lesson and then took the tests on each segment as well. If the average lesson takes this long, I have a lot of material to work through. Level 1 of this course has 92 lessons. That would work out to about 180 hours of training. Level 2 has 118 lessons, so I'm assuming that those lessons are about the same length as Level 1. I haven't purchased the Level 3 package yet. I just couldn't afford it at this time. The Level 1/2 combo pack was $289 from amazon.com. I think the Level 3 package will cost me $225 to buy it alone when the time comes. I think it will take me quite a while to get that far though.
I have noted a few minor annoyances during my first lesson. These aren't showstoppers for me, but I will note them here:
1. On the lesson segments where you get to type text in Spanish, You have to use the on-screen keyboard to get your special characters. You can get the ñ character with the semi-colon key on the keyboard, but the á, é, í, ó, and ú accented characters require the on-screen keyboard. I have my keyboard setup so I can toggle between standard and international English, which makes typing these characters quite easy. The Rosetta Stone software won't let you type those characters into the text input area for some reason. This isn't a huge deal, but it would be nice if it worked.
2. As far as I can see, the software doesn't really track your progress through the lessons in a visual way. As you take the test, it does track that progress, and you can view it at any time, but you can't look at the lesson list and visually see what you have completed and what you haven't. You just have to remember where you left off when you come back.
3. When you run the software, the application CD must be in the drive. It also must be in the SAME drive you installed it from. It will not run from another CD drive in the system. I'm not a fan of this type of installation. I would rather just install all the software to my hard disk and run it from there without a CD in the drive.
4. The application CD is copy protected. The only reason this is a problem for me is because of #3 above. Since the CD is required to run the application, I wanted to make a backup in case my disc gets damaged. I have a desktop and laptop computer, and I intend to use the software in both places. That's gonna put a lot of 'miles' on the CD. If the CD gets damaged, I will have a problem since I can't make a backup of it. A quick search of their website's knowledgebase produced this response:
The copy protection on the Language CD will prevent you from making a backup copy of the CD. Additionally, with the Personal Edition of Rosetta Stone, you will not be able to save the contents of the Language CD on your computer’s hard drive. Please make sure you have the original Language CD in the CD-ROM drive of your computer when you use Rosetta Stone.
If your Rosetta Stone Language CD ever becomes lost or damaged, please contact Product Support for replacement information.
Hopefully, they would be reasonable about replacing this. I did register the program with them, so they should have my information. Just in case, I'm saving the purchase receipt from Amazon in case I need to prove ownership.
After my blog post from a few days ago, I don't guess I can fault the company for protecting their copyright :)